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December 29, 2008

Test: M-Audio BX8a Deluxe Review

After having updated its entire range of audio interfaces, M-Audio now looks to update its monitors, especially in the wake of their excellent high-level EXS66 monitors. These updates have had great results on the small Studiophile AV40, so let’s see what’s happened to the BX8a, for which a Deluxe version was recently released.

M-Audio BX8a Deluxe

The BX8a Deluxe monitors are equipped, as their name suggests, with an 8″ boomer. The latter, made of curved Kevlar, is paired with a 1-1/4” natural silk, waveguide-loaded tweeter for a frequency range extending, according to the manufacturer, from 30 Hz to 24 kHz … In terms of power, these monitors are said to deliver 130 Watts. This means bi-amplification of 70 watts for the bass amplifier and 60 watts for the treble, which is more than sufficient for nearfield monitors. As for their looks, there’s nothing special to mention. Even if they’re not as original looking as the EXS66 monitors, the sober design, black matte finish, and the little blue power LED all look very nice. The well-adjusted ensemble and weight (26.4 lbs./unit) complete the impression of solidity and quality.

You might be a little surprised by the absence of features on the back of the monitors. In addition to the On/Off switch, the power cord jack, and TRS (Jack 6.35) and XLR inputs to connect the monitors to your audio system, there’s only a volume knob. No filter, no EQ, no boost: just a volume control with a middle position that’s not serrated. So it’s not possible to adjust the response curve of these monitors to adapt them to the room in which they’ll be used. Also you should be aware that there’s a vent at the rear of the enclosure: you will have to keep them a safe distance from the wall or it will affect the bass. This is a defect that was already present in the BX8a and which hasn’t been corrected in this version. In short, make sure you have enough space …

Conclusion

M-Audio BX8a Deluxe

Well-built and elegant looking, the BX8a Deluxe are nevertheless not perfect. Between the vent at the rear and a tendency to over-compensate the bass, we wonder why they didn’t include more than just volume settings in terms of adjustments. But compared to other speakers in the same price range, they clearly have their advantages. You’ll particularly like the width of their spectrum, particularly the highs which are very convincing. These latest M-Audio monitors have an excellent value and are likely to interest those who want to make their debut into the difficult science of mixing. Admittedly, there are better monitors, but more expensive,…even much more expensive.

Design.
Lows, and very detailed highs.
Pleasant to work with.
Excellent value for the money.

Lows too prominent .
Almost no sound settings.

Read the full M-Audio BX8a Deluxe Review.

December 27, 2008

Video Demo: DiGiCo SD8

Filed under: Mixing reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 7:17 am

James Bradley from DigiCo introduces the brand new DiGiCo SD8 digital live mixing desk.

Source:  Audiofanzine

December 22, 2008

Gifts for Music Lovers

Christmas Shopping

Are you tired of receiving boxes of chocolate every Christmas? You can’t take another hand-knitted sweater from your aunt and you’d like the bottom of the tree to look a little more…musical? Here’s a selection of gift ideas for your loved ones who may lack inspiration …

For Home Studios

The ultimate audio interface?
Prominently listed among the highlights of this year, TC Electronic’s Studio Konnekt 48 is a Firewire audio interface that features 24 inputs including 4 preamplifiers, 22 outputs, 12 simultaneous analog channels and world class DSP effects. Supplied with a remote control for around $1200, it’s one of the select few able to overshadow RME’s FireFace which, despite its numerous qualities, took a serious blow …

ProTools to go!
ProTools on a USB key; who would have imagined it? They did. Of course, the audio interface is ultra basic but thanks to the MBox 2 Micro, you can work your ProTools session on any computer, for a little less than $250. And since Transfuser currently comes with the package …

Little Adam
Halfway between a multimedia speaker and a near-field monitor, the Adam A5 is somewhat unique … There is the famous ribbon tweeter for which the brand is famous, guaranteeing quality highs, and bass response, which, given the size of the speaker, is no joke and makes it a worthy sibling of the famous A7, for a little less than $440 each. The ideal monitors for working in your apartment without disturbing the neighbors?

A half-legend?
Walking in the footsteps of the illustrious C414, the C214 is meant to be a more accessible version of the classic AKG mic. Featuring only one polar pattern but having the essential of what made the reputation of the large membrane microphone for under $600.

Night terror
It’s small, cute, inexpensive and it works like a charm. For less than $150, the Novation Nocturne will let you control your DAW and plug-ins while tasting the comfort of Automap technology.

26+26=2626
M-Audio’s high-end Profire 2626 has it all for those home studio owners who need a lot of inputs/outputs. Its preamps and converters meet our expectations and the price is around $700; did someone request a great deal?

Deus in machina
Widely used by the pros, the UAD-1 DSP card was nevertheless beginning to get old. So imagine our joy when we saw the UAD-2 arrive with a cornucopia of new plugins each as attractive as the next. And with prices that are not so “pro”, because between the small Solo to the big Quad, prices range from $500 to $1800.

Big Groove
The reference in virtual drummers is back! With 10 full kits and 55 GB of sounds and above all a complete mixer with a great effects section, Fxpansion’s BFD2 is a must for just under $400.

U47 USB?
If you’re looking for a simple way to connect a microphone (static or dynamic) to your computer, know that MXL has created the Mic Mate, an XLR to USB “adapter” incorporating a mic preamp and phantom power. It works without drivers, at the very reasonable price of around $50!

Multimedia Killers
Of course, with their 4″ boomers the Studiophile AV40 won’t do as studio monitors. Still, we’ve rarely come across such good multimedia speakers, with surprising lows for the size of the speakers, highs that’s aren’t bad at all, and great balance … The latest speakers from M-Audio have struck a strong blow to the competitors who offer roughly the same thing for much more, like Creative Labs, Logitech or Altec Lansing. At $150, the AV40 is probably one of the best options you can find for a traveling setup …

What if you changed sequencers…
We’ve got a thing for Reaper, a customizable sequencer, extremely stable, only a few MB, and costs, for non professional usage, fifty dollars. Where’s the catch? Why the discrepancy in prices? Well, we’re beginning to wonder …

Swiss army knife?
A recording studio in your pocket? It’s possible with the Boss Micro BR, a genuine Swiss Army knife that combines 4 tracks, a multi-effects processor, 300 rhythmic patterns and basic editing functions. It’s MP3 compatible, stores on SD cards, has a tuner, and an integrated microphone. What more do you need to know? The price? Around $200.

What a sound!
They look good, and work great, and what a sound. These tube and/or transistor preamps from Universal Audio give the best of both worlds …

Still haven’t found what you were looking for?  For more ideas read the full Gifts for Music Lovers article.

December 19, 2008

Video Demo: MA Lighting Grand MA2

Filed under: Lighting reviews — Tags: , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 7:09 pm

Matthew Button from Buttonlight (freelance programmer for MA Lighting) shows us the new GrandMA2 lighting desk.

Source:   Audiofanzine

December 17, 2008

Video Test: Fender Squier Classic Vibe Review

Listen to the brand new Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster. In this video we also compare it with a US Standard Telecaster.

Source:  Audiofanzine

December 16, 2008

Video Test: Fender Classics Re-issue Pedals

A small demo showing 3 Fender Classics Re-issue Pedals (Volume/Tone, Phaser, and Fuzz/Wah) in action and how they sound.

Source:   en.audiofanzine.com

December 15, 2008

Test: BIAS Peak Pro XT6 Review

Though there are many audio editors for PC, the Mac world looks mainly to DSP Quattro, soundBlade, Audacity, WaveBurner or Peak (a non-exhaustive list), whose features range from “very basic” to “very sophisticated”. No wonder then that this software update of Peak Pro XT 6 (the extended version) by BIAS has been eagerly awaited.

Overview
Of the three versions, LE, Pro, and Pro XT 6, it’s the latter that was installed and tested. With Pro XT 6, BIAS has consolidated its editor, SoundSoap 2 and SoundSoap Pro cleaning software, version 1.2 of its Master Perfection Suite (which explains the price difference between the Pro version at $599 MSRP and the Pro XT at $1199 MSRP), and the Peak Production Pack. This pack includes a library of sounds (a little over 1 GB) by Sound Ideas, Shortwave, Serafine Sound FX, PowerFX, and Hollywood Edge, plus a $100 Broadjam coupon, a limited version of ONE sample player, the SFX Machine LT multi-effects (light version), 32 VST MDA plugins, Reveal LE and SoundSoap LE (identical to the full versions, but that only work within Peak), JackOSX (0.74), Soundflower (1.2.1) and WireTapPro (1.3.4). Take a look at the comparisons between the three versions here.

The software has to be authorized via the internet by entering the serial numbers into the BIAS Authorization Manager. Once that is done, it will be immediately validated. You can authorize two computers, and the BIAS Key is no longer necessary (you regain a USB port …). At startup, there’s a surprise: the GUI has been redesigned. From the dominance of gray in version 5 we go to a dark gray-black look (by default, which be can changed), and buttons now feature a simulated backlighting which highlights an icon when the mouse pointer is rolled over it. The windows are “magnetized” with a default position that can be recalled.

Let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion

ddp 2

BIAS delivers an editor that’s very complete, plus a sound and software suite that’s just as comprehensive, which explains its price. It’s true that we’ve become used to getting more for our money with the likes of Apple’s Logic Suite for example, but we must not forget that this is far from the norm … Plus you have to take into account the loops and effects (excellent quality), the various included plugins which perfectly fulfill their role (starting with native Peak plugins), EQ with different Freq versions, Sqweez compressor, multiband compressor Sqweez-5, and Reveal, all of which are very well designed. There’s not enough space here to talk about them, but they deserve their own test.

With perfect stability, Peak provides worry-free processing of batch files. There are practically no bugs, but note, however, the sensitivity of the Preview feature, which must be handled with care (better not rush things). In fact, I have only encountered a single problem with a batch processing and saving files as .WAV from a batch of files in AIFF in which some files contained accents and special characters (which didn’t pose a problem with Peak 5). Contact with BIAS failed to reproduce the problem on their side …

Another point that can be a problem but which, BIAS says, would be corrected in a future update: when you open files, that weren’t created by Peak, for the first time, the software changes the modified date, even if there is no editing. This may cause problems in managing backups with Time Machine, Super Duper or other CCC …

In short, Peak is still unavoidable, even essential to any Mac users treating many music files in any format, or wishing to prepare playlists regularly, regardless of their destinations. If the XT version seems too expensive, the Pro version offers a comprehensive editor, without the Master Perfection Suite and SoundSoap Pro.

Plein de fenêtres

Comprehensive audio editor
Many DSP functions
Ideal for sound design
Many audio formats
Cache in RAM
Native editing in most compressed formats
Envelopes (volume, plugins, etc..)
Playlist management
Import/export to SMIDI hardware samplers
Quality of sample rate conversion
Quality of dithering
DDP2.0
Vbox 3
VST and AU support
Video
Virtual instrument support
Convolution reverb included
Comprehensive Pdf manual
Almost bug-free
Comprehensive XT Suite (Master Perfection Suite, SoundSoap Pro)
Doesn’t use a USB dongle

Changes the modified date of files as soon as their opened
Sample rate conversion very slow on Mac PPC
Pitch shift and time stretch algorithms (despite the progress made …)
Ram cache for 16-bit files only
Sensitive preview feature
Problems with batch conversion containing certain characters

Read the full review of BIAS Peak Pro XT6 Review here.

December 10, 2008

Test: Squire STC-Shaped Guitars review

Squier has been making low-cost guitars based on Fender designs since 1982. Because their early guitars have now become collector items for some, Squier is seeking to regain some of that magic with their Classic Vibe Series. This latest series was launched to capture the “vibe” of classic Fender designs as opposed to trying to be exact reproductions of vintage models.

Vue générale

The Classic Vibe series is composed of: a 50’s Telecaster, a 50’s & 60’s Stratocaster, a 50’s Duo-Sonic, a 50’s Jazz Bass, and a 50’s & 60’s Precision Bass. In this review we’ll be taking a look at the 60’s Stratocaster, 50’s Telecaster, 50’s Duo-Sonic, and the 50’s Precision Bass. All have MSRP’s at around $499 and street prices of around $299 (the Duo-Sonic is slightly less expensive with a MSRP/Street of $479/$279).

The first thing you’ll notice is that the instruments are all carefully packaged. Once out of the box you’ll get struck by the beauty of the finishes. They certainly look classic. But not only do the models in this review have impeccable finishes, they feel great too. And with the exception of the hardware (Squier’s constant weak point) everything else seems to be right on the money. Here the choice of less expensive hardware is justified as being “vintage” or “classic”. And while some “classic” hardware choices seem to be appropriate (or at least not an issue), some less “vintage” hardware (like enclosed tuning machines) would have been most welcome. But of course that would have jacked up the cost, and considering the price of these models, and their many other strong points, we’re ready to overlook most hardware choices.

The main hardware flaw was found on two of the models (Telecaster & Precision) both of whom had side mounted input jacks. These jacks were very loose regardless of how much I tightened the screws. This problem affected only those instruments with side mounted jacks. The other models tested (Strat & Duo-Sonic) had more or less solid input jacks. Another curious detail is that they all had rather tight knobs compared to their Fender counterparts. I myself like looser knobs to be able to adjust them with my pinky as I’m playing, but this isn’t necessarily a problem for others, and even denotes a certain solidity.

Let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion

Crafted in China but backed by Fender, these guitars and basses have the possibility of being inexpensive quality instruments “IF” Fender/Squier quality control does its job. Nevertheless, as anybody who has bought Chinese made instruments knows, it’s largely hit or miss. To be sure you’re getting a well made instrument (and yes it is possible to get some real quality stuff from China) you need to test the instruments yourself (or at least make sure the store you’re buying it from has a return policy). This is key because only then will you see if there are any flaws. So go to your nearest guitar store and check these Classic Vibe instruments out. When well made, they are really great inexpensive quality instruments. There will still be one or two hardware issues but they are easily changed, and considering the price of these instruments (average MSRP/street of $499/$299), you won’t feel scared or hesitant about making modifications. But do yourself a favor, go check this series out!

Beautiful Finishes
Sound
Workmanship
Price
Duo-Sonic ultra quiet
Intonation on the Telecaster

Duo-Sonic: intonation and neck issues (probably a bad test model)
A few hardware issues: side mounted input jacks on Tele & Precision
A little noisy (Telecaster, Stratocaster, Precision)
Only 3 saddles on the Telecaster & Duo-Sonic

Read the full Squire STC-Shaped Guitars review here.

December 9, 2008

Test: M-Audio ProFire 2626 review

With no fewer than 26 inputs, 26 outputs, 8 integrated Octane microphone preamps, and ProTools M-Powered compatibility, the latest interface from M-Audio aims to find its niche in the category of intermediate-level FireWire audio interfaces. Should the competition be worried?

trois quart

M-Audio has been releasing quality products at very attractive prices (even aggressive prices) for some time now: microphones, MIDI controllers, sound cards and other Home Studio accessories. Bought in 2004 by Avid, which also owns Digidesign, M-Audio now offers sound cards that are Protools M-Powered compatible.

This Protools version allows Home studio owners to use this “legendary” software and create sessions that are compatible with TDM versions, something which had already been possible with Digidesign cards (like MBox, DIGI002, DIGI003) but which has now become more affordable thanks to M-Audio.

The product we’ll be reviewing is the M-Audio Profire 2626 digital audio interface, which has the following specs:

  • 26 x 26 simultaneous analog/digital I/O
  • Up to 24-bit/192kHz
  • 8 mic/line preamps using Octane technology including 2 instrument inputs on the front panel
  • Two ¼” TRS headphone outputs, and a user-assignable master volume knob
  • An onboard DSP mixer that allows routing of internal signals without taking up processor resources
  • Standalone operation (functions as eight-channel mic pre/eight-channel A/D-D/A converter)
  • JetPLL technology – jitter elimination (unwanted variation of one or more characteristics of a periodic signal)
  • Wordclock I/O

Basically, it’s got a lot of nice features which, for an average price of USD 899.95 MSRP (around $699 average street price), could be a very good alternative for people who want to mix with an analog or digital console. There are enough inputs & outputs to put down your tracks without a problem.

What’s in the box?…

Conclusion

M-Audio has come up with a very good product at an interesting price with their Profire 2626. Except for some minor installation issues and control panel display bugs, its internal routing, quality preamps and converters, and numerous inputs/outputs (almost boggles the mind considering the price) make this interface a must-have for people who want to record numerous tracks or who want to try venturing outside of their favorite sequencer to use a console (and thereby use external effects). The icing on the cake is that it works as a standalone A/D-D/A! So with an average street price of $699 it definitely deserves a value for the money award.

Number of Inputs/Outputs
Quality preamps and converters
Internal Routing
2 headphone outputs
Has Wordclock
Compatible with Protools M-Powered

Knob push/pull quality
Phantom common to inputs 1 to 4 and 5 to 8
Installation slightly arduous
Display bugs in M-Audio control panel

Read the full M-Audio ProFire 2626 review here.

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